Julia Catherine is fellow seller on Etsy who makes lovely handmade metal and gemstone jewelry. She was one of the first metal artists to answer my call for interviews and since I loved her work, I sent her my list of questions. Here are her answers!
How long have you been making jewelry?
I have been making jewelry since I was a child. At a young age I would make jewelry from anything I could find, as I grew older my mother purchased supplies like headpins, ear wires and beads for me to create jewelry. It was always so exciting to find out we were getting in supplies for making jewelry! I sold these simple creations in her store.
How did you learn to make metal jewelry?
I learned to make metal jewelry while apprenticing for a master jeweler (my mother) at the young age of 14. I made my first fabricated metal piece when I was 16 years old. This was the age my mother thought it was ‘ok’ for me to handle a torch-with supervision of course! The ring I created is a classic twisted/snake design ring that I still wear. Its very meaningful to me! Other sources of knowledge have been the books my mother learned jewelry making from.
What is your favorite metal or material to work with?
I think my favorite material to work with would be sterling silver, its very malleable and seems to ‘work’ with me. It’s like an old friend, I have worked with it so much and for so long I can almost predict what it will do next. I also love working with karat gold (10kt-14kt) metals although sterling is my favorite because the price lends it to be available to experimentation.
What are some of your other favorite materials?
I would have to say my most favorite materials other than metals are pearls! They are available in so many different colors and shapes and sizes now. Others include vintage beads, faceted glass and czech glass beads. I love making things with faceted stones when my time allots for fabricating settings.
Is your studio at home or do you rent/own separate studio space?
My studio is in the back of our jewelry store, my mother and I have two jewelers benches right next to each other. We usually sit there and BS a lot, it’s how I come up with some of my best ideas!
What is your favorite tool/equipment to use in your work?
My favorite tool would be my hammer! I love my ball peen hammer. My next favorite I think would fall under the ‘equipment’ category, that would be the torch.
What is your dream piece of equipment?
I’m a minimalist, I’m currently wanting a new ball peen hammer with a larger round area and maybe some new pliers.
What is your least favorite technique?
I would have to say saw cutting things like nameplates always starts out my least favorite but when I see the end result I’m always pleased with it.
What technique do you find most challenging?
I would say fabricating settings like wire basket settings and bezel settings are the most challenging. They are very time consuming and need to be created very meticulously and measured very carefully. Not much room for error, especially with bezel settings.
Is there a technique you don’t know yet that you’d like to learn?
A technique I have been wanting to learn is metal etching . It looks so gorgeous every time I see a design etched out with the different relief. I’m working on learning though!
How does the design process work for you? For example, do you sketch your ideas first, or do they just come to you as you work?
My design process is different for almost everything I create. Most often I have a design in my mind and scribble down the details so I wont forget or to figure out what materials I will need. A lot of times I will just sit at my bench with materials in front of me and ideas come to mind. I create a ‘recipe’ for the design so I can recreate it. Some more complex designs that include gemstones I usual do a sketch to prevent any mishaps or wasted materials.
Do you have any resource recommendations (books, websites, etc) for people who want to learn to make metal jewelry?
Your biggest asset to learning to create metal jewelry would be to take the time to apprentice for a master jeweler. If you are truly dedicated to learning this is something you will try to do. One of my favorite books is ‘Jewelry Making’ I think its by Murray Bovin. Its always nearby. It maybe out of print though, its an oldie!
I know it sounds weird but jewelry making is almost something that defines me. Its not a hobby or a job, its both but in itself its so much more for me.